Public Relations: Shades of Grey Get Results

by coach

A recent post (“R-Buttons and the Open Marketplace”) by Cluetrain Manifesto co-author Doc Searls got me thinking about how public relations works best. He quoted from the now-famous book:

“For thousands of years, we knew exactly what markets were: conversations between people who sought out others who shared the same interests. Buyers had as much to say as sellers. They spoke directly to each other without the filter of media, the artifice of positioning statements, the arrogance of advertising, or the shading of public relations.

These were the kinds of conversations people have been having since they started to talk. Social. Based on intersecting interests. Open to many resolutions. Essentially unpredictable. Spoken from the center of the self. “Markets were conversations” doesn’t mean “markets were noisy.” It means markets were places where people met to see and talk about each other’s work.”

I liked the “shading of public relations” phrase though Searls meant it somewhat derisively. Because that is the art of public relations. It is nuance. Intersecting interests. Common causes. Shared values. Engagement on a wide level. Communicating shades of grey while others are blaring in color.

In the “marketplace,” and in social media, PR can be remarkably effective.

It is not the self-interest of marketing. The shout-out-loud of advertising. The intrusion of telephone marketers or the imposition of direct mail.

PR works best when it’s practiced just like the conversations in the markets of old. Face-to-face. Honestly. Personally. Respectfully. Listening carefully to what neighbors or buyers were saying. And sometimes even told through great storytelling!

Your word was your bond and your actions were then judged by what you said you would do. That’s what built a man’s, a woman’s or a merchant’s reputation.

Imagine how different the crisis outcomes would be if these practices were followed by BP, Tiger Woods, Toyota and Goldman Sachs?

So it is with public relations. That’s why PR is also uniquely able to manage social media. We understand shades of grey. We know how to listen and use those shades of grey for effective communications through the media, storytelling, twittering, on Facebook or wherever the marketplace of the future takes us all.

Interesting to consider how shades of grey can get such colorful results!

We’d love to hear your thoughts about PR below! Lots more thoughtful reading in the PR Library – PR Profession bookshelves, and as always, the PR Bookstore and PR Job Board are open 24 x 7.

Image: Arvind Balaraman /

Friday PR Picks

Public Relations
Best response may be no response [Monday Morning Media Minute]
Changing Media Usage — A Snapshot [my 2 cents]
How do you measure PR success? [Measuring Up]
How Expedia uses advisory releases [IR Web Report]
Journalists Find Some News Releases Useful [Journalistics]
Mark Twain on what it’s like to be interviewed [Evolving Newsroom]
Practical, doable PR tips for small businesses [Proper Propaganda]
Return on Integrity Is the New Bottom Line for Marketers [Ad Age]
Pitching the Perfect Pitch to Bloggers [Hoosier PRSA Blog]
Ten tips for running a successful public-relations campaign [Inc.]
The Six Greatest PR Myths Part 2 (3 &4) [Effective Public Relations]
Top 25 Authorities Moving PR Forward / Authority List [A-List: Traackr]

Social Media
6 Crucial Social Media Tips for Traditional Media [tomretterbush’s posterous]
10 Free Social Media Monitoring Tools [Social Web Thing]
10 Simple Ideas for Setting Up a New Twitter Business Account [Online Social Networking]
10 Tips for Corporate Blogging [Open Forum]
How a Good Social Media Execution is your Best PR [Conversation Agent]
How to handle negative social media: Defeating the Dark Side of Social Networking [Bloomberg Businessweek]
Social Media Monitoring Tools – How to Pick The Right One [Convince & Convert]
The Challenge – and Risk – Of Ad Agencies’ Growing Interest In Social Media [Dave Fleet]
Top 7 Ways to Increase Link Popularity with Content on Your Site [Search Engine Journal]

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